Friday, September 28, 2018

Hatcher Pass

A few weeks ago, Tim and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and took a drive that led to an unplanned hike.  We were rewarded with this gorgeous view - Gold Cord Lake.  En route we passed an old cabin built in the 30s, and we were lucky to spot a pika scurrying across the rocks. 

On the way down we heard lots of chirps and soon spotted several Arctic ground squirrels.

To get to the trailhead for our hike, we walked part of the road leading to Independence Mine.  On the way back to our car, we decided to take a look.  We were too late in the season to gain access to the visitor center or take a guided tour, but there were plenty of displays along the paved pathways providing information on the history of the area.  Having acquired a few blisters on our jaunt up to Gold Cord Lake, I was content to read a few of the panels and then use binoculars to look at the mining structures and various buildings from a bench with far-reaching views.  

Here are some other photos form that day:



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from. - Terry Tempest Williams

August was quite a rain-filled month in Anchorage.  All of that moisture brought forth an abundance of mushrooms, seemingly everywhere.  I may have become slightly obsessed with seeking them out and photographing the various shapes, colors, sizes and textures.  Some were smaller than my pinky finger while others were larger than my booted foot.  It all felt a big magical in combination with the mosses, trees, ferns, grasses, fallen leaves and birdsong that accompanied our forest walks and park ramblings.  I continue to be excited while exploring more of Anchorage's green pockets and wild spaces within city limits and a bit beyond.

September has proven to be one of the warmest and driest on record.  We've enjoyed week after week of gorgeous fall weather, and getting outdoors to enjoy it has been my top priority.  Realizing winter will soon be here with shortened hours of daylight, I've been keen to take every opportunity to embrace autumn in Alaska.  

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. - Rachel Carlson

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

bears, moose and elk...oh my

A few weeks ago while my little sister was in town, my husband and I finally toured the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage.  We've seen many moose, a lynx, and a few bears since moving to Anchorage, but we hadn't come across any wandering around town after more than a week into her visit.  

Here is Snickers.  There is a second porcupine at the Center named Kit Kat.

I had read about the AWCC while we were still living in Utah and was particularly looking forward to seeing one of its resident porcupines named Snickers.  (Porcupines were a rare and especially enjoyable sighting during my years working in Yellowstone, and I've harbored a fondness for them ever since.)   We were not disappointed upon actually seeing little Snickers with his bright orange teeth.  By no means were the bears, moose, elk, deer, bison, musk oxen, lynx, caribou or birds a let down either.  

One of two bull moose lounging adjacent to the perimeter fence.  The rut had begun so we kept a safe distance.  

a close up of his antlers

a bull elk starting to lose his velvet

To be honest, seeing animals in captivity often leaves me a bit saddened.  Knowing those living at the center have been rescued and are cared for due to injury, becoming orphaned at a young age, human ignorance/stupidity (keeping a porcupette found in the forest as a pet for toddlers, for example) and other reasons made this visit considerably less depressing.  Additionally, many of the animals living at the AWCC reside in large fenced areas where they can wander and live in the most natural setting possible.  Although the enclosures are not nearly the size of their natural range or migration routes used in the wild, reconciling the difficulty in seeing animals in captivity when their inherent wildness is what draws us to such a place, I try to see the benefits gained by research, conservation and education.  The staff offer talks while feeding or caring for specific animals throughout the day.  They include why individual animals live at the center in their chat along with specific information about that particular animal's observed behaviors.  Thankfully, they also offer an opportunity to ask questions.

Oh, Hi bear.

It was a lovely day for the drive down from Anchorage to see so many beautiful animals and the surrounding landscape.  We all three had big grins on our faces as we walked and drove around the center.  My face actually hurt from smiling after viewing three bears together in one enclosure.  One of them swam and frolicked in the water while another paced along the fence line which was roughly fifteen feet away from sightseers.  It was magnificent and joyful scrutiny on our part.

When you see up close how small their eyes are, it's easy to understand why bears need to have such a strong sense of smell.  Once at a ranger talk, it was said that a grizzly bear can smell a human 24 hours after they've hiked on a trail.  Fascinating.     

My sister did eventually see two moose in town - a young bull and a cow.  That sighting was also a treat.

Tori and me being goofy toward the end of our day at the AWCC.